This iconic Kansas City building was built in 1934 as home to the first Katz Drug Store outside the central business district. It was the first major work by architect Clarence Kivett, who would go on to become the most famous and influential of Kansas City architects. It incorporated elements of both Art Deco and Art Moderne styling.
The building is currently owned by Redeemer Fellowship. HKC placed the Katz Drug Store on our Most Endangered Places list in 2019 following a meeting with Redeemer Fellowship in which HKC requested that restrictive covenants be a part of any future sale agreement.
On December 29, 2020, a development proposal was filed with the city planning department by St Louis firm Lux Living. The project includes a building addition of six stories, or seven including a mezzanine, and about 192 apartments on the surface parking lot behind the existing building. The plan would require the demolition of the non-historic rear addition. The historic Katz building will be adaptively reused as offices, with some retail, and as an amenity center for the residents, including the addition of a rooftop pool. Lux Living also contemplates the use of state and federal historic tax credits.
HKC has met twice with the developer and project team. HKC recognizes the need for the historic building to evolve and adapt to a changing set of retail and economic circumstances. As preservationists, we know from years of experience that adaptive reuse is frequently the best outcome and sometimes the only outcome for saving historic places.
The Katz building is a high priority save for preservationists. We are willing to accept that this may entail additional construction in or around the historic building, and if properly done that is a price we believe can be paid. Surrounding the Katz building is a business district full of historic buildings and historic residential neighborhoods. If we give the Katz building new purpose and enliven that site, we hope that can positively affect the historical context around it. That is a worthy preservation goal.
We don’t usually endorse projects unless they are rather faithful restorations. In this case, new infill development and density is placed at a designated commercial intersection, not within or abutting historic single-family residential neighborhoods. Transparency in the Westport Road entrance is a great improvement. Stepping back the uppermost floors of the adjacent tower from the historic Katz clock tower is a step in the right direction.
Of course, we can’t always rely on renderings we are shown beforehand. Different outcomes do eventuate and require vigilance from all interested parties. Many bodies, such as the City Plan Commission, Preservation Commission, and National Park Service, some with great preservation expertise, have or will be reviewing this project. We believe that with this level of oversight good outcomes can and will be attained.
Still, we feel inclined to recommend the proposed redevelopment of the Katz building and site with HKC’s stated reservations as provided to the project team. An official endorsement by HKC is contingent upon final project review with submission of materials samples.
This proposal is an example of how HKC and developers can work together for the best possible result.